Tell us about your work / research. What kinds of things do you do?
Current focus is on underwater robots and their accessories - sensors, acoustic systems, navigation and computer vision. I have been working to bring capable but low cost technology to citizen scientists leveraging mobile electronics and the maker movement’s digital manufacturing. I am also trying to bridge academic research in related fields with open source/maker projects we can all use. Acoustic localization for small ROVs is my most active project.
What sparked your initial interest in your career?
Exploring space and engineering/designing systems to travel there were my early drivers. Being an engineer empowered you to create things and understand how they worked - like being a wizard! I have been fortunate to experience the computer industry evolve almost from the beginning - mainframes to personal computers and now mobile and micro controllers. I have now been able to align my interests in the ocean with my technical ones to support exploration of an amazing realm.
Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?
I read a lot while I was young and certainly Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues got me excited. I also learned a lot from my dad who was a master carpenter and I saw how to go from ideas/plans to actually build things. Later watching the explorations of Cousteau and reading about the age of sail fed my dreams. Moving to California and working for Apple in the early days gave me exposure to all kinds of dreamers - especially the two Steve’s (Jobs and Woz)!
What element of your work / study do you think is the most fascinating?
The idea of exploring the vast space of the oceans and observing life in this alien world is captivating. What I find really exciting is that now technology and science have become so much more approachable and low cost that I can collaborate with folks to build robots which empower others to experience this world first hand!
What other jobs led to your current career?
Early on I started out in aerospace and was able to work on the tail end of the Apollo space program. When it ended, I still wanted to do more. I got involved with sensors and computer systems at Sloan Kettering/Memorial Hospital’s laboratory information systems. I moved to California where all of the startup activity that became Silicon Valley was going on. The years I spent at Apple while it was a startup were amazing and exposed me to a very different way to look at things. After many years at Oracle being part of the revolution in data systems I wanted to pursue research ideas of my own and get closer my earlier electronics and small computer work. My daughter worked on an underwater modem idea for her master’s thesis at UC San Diego and it led me toward underwater robotics. After meeting Eric Stackpole at the Maker’s Faire I got involved with OpenROV so I could have one of my own to support my research and development ideas.
What are your degrees and certifications?
New York University, N.Y. - Master of Science in Computer Science
Manhattan College, N.Y. - Bachelor of Engineering in Electrical Engineering
UC Berkeley - Product Management Program
What are your hobbies?
Life long sailor mostly cruising San Francisco Bay in a Catalina 36 now days. Have bareboat chartered in many fun places: Caribbean, Greek Islands, Great Barrier Reef, Tonga, Bay of Islands - New Zealand, Vancouver B.C. SCUBA diving many places around the world as well. Winters are spent skiing in the Sierra - mostly Squaw Valley. My wife and I try to get some ski travel trips in when we can. On the techie side - robotics, maker movement, photography and anything to do with computers and electronics.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a career like yours?
Get excited about your interests and dream big - this is an amazing time! Don’t be afraid to reach out to folks and network - break out of the peer group you grew up with. Complement your studies with hands on experience which will help you discover what you really want - build stuff! Don’t get over specialized and reach out across disciplines. With computer engineering I was able to work with folks from many areas: Medical, scientific, industrial and business.
How did you get involved in the Nautilus Exploration Program? How did you get on the ship?
Through a colleague I met Ethan Gold Director of Software and Data Engineering for OET. Ethan invited us to a visit when the vessel was in San Francisco at the Exploratorium. Nautilus/Hercules/Argus were amazing to see up close and we were both excited about each others' activities and ideas. We launched the goal then to figure out how to bring the citizen science work of OpenROV together with what OET and E/V Nautilus are doing.